Gov. Andrew Cuomo on campus in the Student Activities Center on April 11, 2019. During a press conference on Sunday, he called on the federal government to deploy the Army Corps of Engineers to retrofit non-hospital facilities, such as State University of New York (SUNY) dorms, to make more room for COVID-19 patients. GARY GHAYRAT/STATESMAN FILE

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the federal government to deploy the Army Corps of Engineers to retrofit non-hospital facilities, such as State University of New York (SUNY) dorms, to make more room for COVID-19 patients in a press conference on Sunday.

Cuomo warned against overwhelming hospital capacities for the treatment and containment of COVID-19, as he expects the numbers of positive cases to increase. 

New York hospitals have a total of 53,000 beds, with 3,000 in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). ICU beds have ventilators that can care for patients with underlying health conditions, according to Cuomo. 

“We have never fought a virus like this with this potential consequence,” Cuomo said, as he urged the health care system to “plan forward.”

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Cuomo said that New York is prepared to build more hospital beds, provide more staff, and develop a backup staff and reserve staff to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on health care facilities. 

He also called on the federal government to increase automated testing for New York, which would reduce the time it takes to diagnose COVID-19. 

There are currently 729 cases of COVID-19 in New York, the most in the United States as of Sunday afternoon. More than 100 of those cases are hospitalized, with 65 in ICU according to Cuomo. More than 300 cases are in New York City and 47 are in Suffolk County. 

There have been three deaths from COVID-19 complications in New York as of Sunday afternoon.

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Cuomo has also asked businesses to “aggressively consider” work from home and high-density workplaces to voluntarily close. He threatened to tighten the restrictions on large gatherings if businesses break the emergency law that went into effect on Friday, which banned gatherings larger than 500 people and slashed the maximum capacity for buildings and events under that number by 50%.

After his press conference on Sunday, Cuomo announced in a press release that Suffolk, Nassau and Westchester counties will close public schools for two weeks starting Monday. 

New York City public schools will close until at least April 20, according to New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio. Cuomo gave city officials 24 hours to construct a plan to provide meals to children who rely on school breakfast and lunch programs and to offer childcare as needed to working parents — specifically those who work in essential jobs, such as firefighters, police officers and health care professionals.

Cuomo also announced that the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles is now requiring appointments and will no longer take walk-in customers.

The legislature in Albany will continue to meet and that the New York State budget will be passed on time on April 1.

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